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April 24th - Interview with Audio Expert Kevin LaTour

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Today's Show:
Ara had a chance to speak with audio expert Kevin LaTour about speaker cables. Kevin presented the other side of the argument that says you really should spend more on your speaker wire. He explains why he believes it's worth it. more...

Listen now - mp3
post #2 of 10
Hello Braden & Ara

Wanted to thank you again for the opportunity to be on your show, it was a fun experience. Sorry I sounded a little nervous lol i'm much better on blogs lol. Again if anyone has any questions I will be happy to help in anyway I can. I hope that if anything this might expose more people to the hi-End audio video industry and a higher level of enjoyment for both music and film. No it does'nt have to be expensive, its more the attention to detail and learning how to choose your equipment, and the art of setup and calibration.

I wanted to say I highly recommend that everyone visit their local independent high-End audio store, become friends with the salesmen, and most stores would be happy to loan out cables for you to try in your own systems. Most salesmen can evaluate your system and tell you what you might try to best compliment what you have.

Thanks again
Kevin LaTour
post #3 of 10
I am a bit confused on your High End Cables theory.

I will just give an example: I use Acoustic Research that I bought at B-Buy for my surround system. I have a Yamaha RX-V3900 (moved the 2900 down stairs) and Axiom speakers. (5.1 system) Would you say that my speaker wire is good? Would you say that I would notice a difference if I used MIT speaker wire or some other really expensive $10ft. stuff?

Are you just saying to stay away from the R---Shack $8 for 100ft stuff?

And what about Interconnects? Are you ok with Acoustic Research (which I use) and recommending stay away from W-mart special interconnects?
Or are you saying that some $500+ analog interconnects will sound better then my Acoustic Research?

Just trying to see where you are coming from on this topic. I was not getting it from the interview.

post #4 of 10
I'm sorry I was'nt more informative why cables make a difference and what is the best way to approach buying cables, but I was on a very limited time frame. I wanted to make the point that cables do make a considerable difference and is worth making an investment.

First I highly recommend going to your local independent hi-end audio store for they have a much better selection in cables, and most stores will allow you to try different cables on your own system before you buy. Most of the salesmen at these audio stores can make recommendations for cables for you to try.

Most of the cables in the chain stores are not good enough to make a significant difference. The Chain stores are not going for the better sounding cables, just the ones with a higher profit margin.

Try some of the better cables first so you can more easily hear what differences cables make in your system, then try and find cables that meet both the sound you like and the price range that best fits your budget.

Cables behave like Capacitors, theres capacitance, inductance, and resistance. Energy in an audio cable is stored in two forms: in the magnetic field of the inductor and as an electric field in the dielectric that surrounds the conductors themselves. There are many other factors that effect the sound of a cable.

My suggestion is not to get to caught up on the technical aspect of the cables and trust your ears and how they sound.

There are many moderately priced cables that can make a nice improvement, like Audioquest, Tara Labs, and many others.

If I can help more in anyway feel free to ask.
Kevin LaTour
post #5 of 10
Sorry to be the voice of dissent here, but I think it's ludicrous to suggest that a change in electronics or speaker cables will have nearly the effect on sonic quality as speakers or room treatments. Every speaker has a different voicing, different design philosophy, different crossover points between the high and low (and sometimes midrange) drivers, and will appeal to different people based on their subjective perception of the sound. Every room has different sonic issues based on size, reflectiveness, furniture and other items in the room, plus a whole lot more (window and door placement, construction materials, etc.). I'm not suggesting that every set of electronics will sound the same, but it's the degree of difference, and the cost it takes to hear those differences, that are significant in this discussion.

Imagine this scenario. Take half a dozen reasonable quality amplifiers, including receivers, throw in a multi-thousand dollar amp from MacIntosh or Krell, with a single set of high-quality (but affordable for the majority of HT Guys Listeners) speakers. Now, using the same program material, switch between the amps. Observe the differences in sound. Now take any one of the amps, and switch between half a dozen different speakers. Are you suggesting that the majority of listeners will hear nearly as much of a change in sonic quality by switching the amps as they do from switching the speakers? That is just not reality. Even if you only use speakers that are way out of the price range of most, the differences between them will be stark. Any differences between the amps will be subtle at best. Now take your favorite combo of amp/speaker from the previous test into a different room and see how it sounds. Again, are you suggesting that a change in electronics will have more of an effect than this? Also not realistic. I'm not suggesting that a $400 mass market receiver will sound as good, or the same, as a $5000 amp, but who among us can afford it? I'm also not arguing that if you CAN afford it, you shouldn't go that route, but those of us who can't shouldn't be embarrassed by our more modest, but still excellent sounding gear.

As far as speaker cables go, it's troubling to me that anyone would suggest that you tune an inferior amp/speaker/room system by choosing speaker cables that COLOR THE SOUND! WHAT?!?!? If I spent thousands on speaker cable, they dang well better deliver to my speaker the same signal that my amp gave them - otherwise what's the point of spending all that money on components that have a specific sound?

I can speak with some experience on this subject as I am a recording engineer. Granted, I have very little experience setting up HT systems except for friends and family. But I have done similar tests to what I have described over the years when setting up HT rooms, and the results were, to me and the people I was with, unequivocal. After years of being a free-lance engineer, I also have lots of experience moving among different mixing rooms at different studios. The most reliable way to have a reference standard to go by is to take your favorite speakers with you wherever your work takes you. They won't sound identical everywhere due to varying room acoustics, but it makes a LOT bigger difference than the amplification or speaker cables used.

This is not meant to be an attack on this viewpoint. I am not suggesting that expensive, high quality amps will sound identical to cheaper ones, or that there are no differences in the sound of various speaker cables. I just believe it's important to put some perspective on the situation for people who have limited budgets in terms of how their money could be spent most effectively.
post #6 of 10
Thanks for responding Lietweight, I enjoying talking about audio and sharing my experiences. I have enjoyed a long career in audio, designing, selling, and setting some the very finest in home audio gear. I also have a audio engineering degree and background, and have helped produce music, but its the home audio area that I have actually learned more about the playback chain.

I certainly go against the grain in what many people believe in a few critical areas. Speakers for one, now i'm not saying that speakers are not important and that they don't make a difference, BUT its the detail in the music that makes it more involving and gives you a greater emotional connection to the music.

It is important to understand that there are many ways to enjoy music, none of them wrong, hell you can listen to music on a clock radio and enjoy it, for the lyrical content, the performance, but many listeners have not had the experience to listen to music on a well designed hi-end audio system. There is a much deeper connection to what the artist intent was and a system well done can give you a very good reproduction of the original performance.

When I design systems for customers I do first start with evaluating speakers, have them listen to different speakers to get a feel for how they like to listen to music. Speakers do have a big effect on the presentation and tonal balance know doubt. We try and narrow it down to a few models, keeping in mind the type of room they have and any limitations they might have in speaker placement.

No doubt the room and speaker placement are critical I could talk hours about speaker placement which is both a science and a art takes alot of patience and knowledge. It can make and break a system but thats takes years of experience to perfect.

After we have narrowed it down to speakers then we try different electronics, cables. I tell customers that this is a starting point and will have to be fine tuned in the actual room we setup in. In some cases we may even have try different speakers, electronics, cables in how it interacts with the room and again how they want it to sound. Because I have so many years of experience I have a pretty good idea whats going to work and whats not. Its certainly a process that takes patience to do it right.

Many audiophiles have spent years perfecting our systems and alot of times its trial and error.

But I do strongly feel that people dont put enough emphasis on the electronics and its the front end (source, preamp, amp) that will ultimately make the biggest difference in the emotional connection to the music.

Let me give you a Example: Compare two systems.

Take the best speaker you can think of hook it up to reciever ( lol as long as it can drive it )and cd player

Then compare it to a system with a killer front end (source, preamp, transport and dac ) hook it up to even a good $700 dollar pair of speakers I guarentee you the $700 dollar speakers will knock your socks off, will be much more detailed, and involving.

The speakers are only going to reproduce what they are given, the detail comes from the electronics, so if the details is not there you will eventually become bored with the music and find it uninvolving.

People are often very surprised that a speaker they thought was not very good, can be fantastic when coupled with the right electronics. I think most people often think its a limitation in speakers when its really the electronics that are limiting the speakers. And that is even more true with high end speakers for many are very damanding of what you put in front of it.

I'll never forget seeing a ad in the paper from a dealer who was advertising a very nice pair of electrostatics, sold with a reciever. lol well sorry to say there was no way in hell that reciever could even began to drive the speaker and quarenteed they would be getting alot of cooked recievers lol. Which they did and had to pull that ad quick lol. Heard the recievers throughout some nice flames lol.

Honestly if I had to rate the importance of each part in a system, I give the preamp the number one spot in importance, then source, then amp, then speakers. The preamp is the heart of the system, has the biggest effect on the sound and presentation. Its the hardest piece to manufacture and get right.

Cables are the final tool and needs to be considered as a component for it can make all the difference. I use cables as the final touch in fine tuning the overall tonality and presentation.
Most of the time I will not use the same manufactures cables throughout a system, as in most cases each manufactures have thier strengths and weekness's. I hope you've had the chance to try different digital cables as well as they also make a huge difference.

I guess the point was I was trying to inform people that cables do make a considerable difference.

Acoustics is another area I debate with alot with people, and accessories, oh boy thats a big one lol.

I think if people understand that everything has an effect on the sound, the question is it better or just different and learning how to determine that.

Be happy to talk more about audio or answer any questions

Kevin LaTour

Oh and reponse to cables coloring the sound. lol well nothing in audio is neutral everything has its own color or sonic characteristic, so its getting the right mix of colorations that compliment each other and getting to sound right to your ears.
post #7 of 10
If your interested here's a little article that was writen about me you might find interesting. I take pride in it was writen by one of the most respected mastering engineers in the industry.

Since it wont let me post a url put the world wide web address in front.


Enjoy Kevin LaTour
post #8 of 10
It was good :-)
post #9 of 10
Hello Friends,

It was amazing interview and would prefer to see it again..thanx
post #10 of 10
Wow! If I'm not mistaken, I'll better stick to "My suggestion is not to get to caught up on the technical aspect of the cables and trust your ears and how they sound." Nothing should beat this principle since it my own ears I'm trying to satisfy anyway. A lot of information to digest here and we have these lightweight and KLaTour to thank.
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